Friday, August 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Finally, billionaires will get their say in Washington

Obama taps a Chicago billionaire to serve in his Cabinet. We need this like we need a hole in the head.

Finally, billionaires will get their say in Washington

 Penny Pritzker.
Penny Pritzker.

One great thing about America is that we try very hard not to shut anyone out of the national conversation. Consider billionaires, for example. They represent less than 1 percent of the population, yet they have unique problems that other citizens simply don't face. Death taxes, higher marginal income taxes, regulations on investment, right-to-work laws, immigration rards on their nannies -- who speaks for this minority inside the corridors of power?

In recent weeks, President Obama has faced some criticism -- ironically, said some -- for a lack of diversity in his cabinet. I think this bold pick will shut everyone up:

Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker was nominated by President Barack Obama to become the new Secretary of Commerce on Thursday, in an expected move that could prove controversial for the longtime political supporter and fundraising heavyweight.

Pritzker is on the board of Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her wealthy family and has had rocky relations with labor unions. Her nomination, which still needs Senate confirmation, also could bring up questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.

With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker, 54, is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans.

Among her qualifications: (h/t Joe DiStefano)

“The Pritzkers like to say they did sub-prime lending to help the disadvantaged get into the home equity business, [but] it would be more accurate to state they ran a very large nation-wide predatory lending operation,” Anderson said, citing criticism of Superior’s lending practices in a letter written to the Office of Thrift Supervision on July 3, 2002, by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, an association of more than 600 community-based organizations that promote access to basic banking services.

As an owner and board chair of Superior, Penny Pritzker also was named in a RICO class action suit on behalf of the more than 1,400 depositors at Superior, who initially lost over $50 million of their life savings.

"This is a story of two Americas with two sets of laws, one for the rich and powerful and another for the rest of us,” said Clint Krislov, the depositors’ attorney, in a recent interview. “My clients will all be dead, before they get back their money, given the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the lower court, which put the predatory owners on the front of the line, if any money is recovered.”

The Pritzkers arrayed a powerful and well-connected legal team including former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment lawyer Lanny Davis, two ex-comptrollers of the currency, and two former General Counsels to the FDIC, the American Banker Magazine reported.

Anything else?

Pritzker also could draw fire from labor leaders. Hyatt has long battled Unite Here in Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere. And Pritzker, who served on the Chicago Board of Education until she resigned in March, has been harshly criticized by the Chicago Teachers Union. When she stepped down, a union official said she "has a long and storied history as an anti-labor and anti-worker kind of boss."

Republicans who run the House and can filibuster in the Senate have held up some good appointees over the last four years, but this is one pick where I hope the GOP will be complete tools and throw up every roadblock they possibly can. Penny Pritzker would be terrible for America and, all joking aside, the kleptocracy does not need another seat at the banquet. I totally agree that Obama needs more women in his cabinet -- how hard could it be to find one who's not out to screw the American worker and middle-class home-buyers?

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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